Board denies teachers’ job share appeal
June 4, 2013 — ”Shame,” “shame,” “shame,” whispered one teacher when two fellow educators’ job share denials remained in effect after an appeal hearing.
Sixth-grade teacher Jamie Huber and second-grade teacher Jodi Neuenschwander had requested to be part of an 80/20-job share where they work four days a week and another teacher works the fifth day for next year.
On April 29, they received word from superintendent Jason Waddell that he was denying their request. The teachers, who have been in previous job share positions and have to make a request every year, appealed the decision to the Susanville School District Board of Trustees during a May 15 meeting.
Members of the Susanville Teachers Association filled the room on South Gilman Street and stood in solidarity when unit representative Linda Dunn read a letter supporting the teachers and when Huber and Neuenschwander addressed the board.
Board trustee Reagan Autenrieb, who said she spent a lot of time thinking about the issue, made a motion to overturn the job share denial.
She said, “I’m wanting to overturn this because I think we have great teachers. I think we have great teachers, and I think we need to take care of our teachers, and we need to stand behind them and give them what they need.”
The motion died for a lack of a second and the job share denial remains in effect.
In an email, Waddell explained the teachers’ job share requests were denied because they did not have an identified job share partner and by not doing so, the job must be flown as a vacancy. With people in layoff status, the job must be offered to them first. However, due to their layoff rights, a teacher in a 20 percent position can abandon it if something else that is more desirable opens up in the district.
“This has occurred on a few different occasions in the last few years. We’ve begun the year with one person and then they’ve left the position, causing the need to then find another person to assume the position later in the year. District administration has been concerned that the instability of the situation is less than ideal for the students in the classroom that have had to deal with the change. Additionally, with our resources stretched thin in the entire county and qualified substitutes difficult to find, the job share positions also pull potential sub-candidates from the sub-pool, thus making it even more difficult to cover classrooms during teacher absences,” Waddell said.
A third job share application had been approved.
Waddell explained the third job share request is a husband and wife team who requested to share one full-time position. It has two identified partners and “does not pose a risk of mid-year change.”
Huber has been employed by the Susanville School District for nine years and has been in a job share for the past four years.
When she addressed the board, Huber said the Susanville Teachers Association contract does not specify a job share as a team, nor does it have to apply as a team.
She also said, “I have not, to this date, received feedback from administration, parents or students about myself, my job share partners or my classroom in a negative light that would lead me to believe my job share partnership has been unsuccessful. I greatly strive to maintain a highly successful classroom in job share partnership.”
She quoted part of the denial letter, which said there were “several instances where students have had to endure one or several changes in teachers as we have struggled to fill 20 percent of the job share.”
Huber said she recognizes there has been change but she wanted to add, “That I believe and, would hope the board and administration would agree, I have gone above and beyond to make sure my students, parents and new job share partner were fully ready for whatever change life brought our way.”
The job share agreement allows Huber and Neuenschwander more time with their young children and to help in their classrooms, which they both noted.
Huber said, “I put my time in, as many teachers do, many hours after school each day, because I know I have Fridays off to be with my family.”
She mentioned the first goal set in the district’s new vision statement, which is to build relationships for greater parent involvement.
“My job share allows me one day to be a parent in my child’s life educationally, which is something I greatly value,” she said
Huber asked for one more year to be with her son during his first year of kindergarten and her older son as he is in second grade and in his last year at McKinley.
Neuenschwander said, “I feel so strongly about this goal. Since my job share was denied, I feel as though I’m not personally being supported as a parent and that is extremely discouraging. This job share will allow me the time to participate in my own children’s classroom.”
She also outlined positive reasons a job share makes sense.
“Students and parents have the opportunity to make a meaningful connection with two educators. Having two teachers brings different experiences and strengths to the classroom. This gives students the opportunity to make more positive connections to learning when they are provided with many different teaching experiences,” she said.
A job share teaches children adaptability and how to adapt to change in a positive manner, according to Neuenschwander.
In talking with parents, Neuenschwander said she only heard positive words from parents regarding the positive impact a job share has had on their child.
Other teachers addressed the board supporting both teachers.
Board president Camille Buehler said, “I appreciate the emotion. I appreciate what it means to you, but from up here where we stand, we can’t make our decisions based on emotion and we can’t think as parents. I can’t think of my own child when I make decisions, if that were a choice there are a lot of decisions I would have done very differently in the last two years. We’re not able to force an employee to a 20 percent position. We can’t. Your contracts state that we cannot …” she said.
“We’ve asked that if you want to do an 80/20 that they’re a combined team and that 20 percent is there no matter what else happens in the district. Since we can’t provide that, we can’t force an employee to be 20 percent and you are not bringing us a 20 percent, I am not wanting to approve the appeal,” Buehler said.
Board vice president Pam Woodworth said, “Neither am I.”
During some further discussion regarding laid off teachers being happy with taking a 20 percent job, Buehler said, “Everybody’s happy to take the 20 percent and they’re also very happy to take the long term sub-position after that …”
“That is where we’re coming from, is its that turnover that we cannot prevent,” she said.
Sherrie Thornton, a retired teacher who has worked as Huber’s job share partner, said the problem was the way the contract was written for rehiring rights.
“So you’re sort of (contradicting) yourself, You say you don’t know what’s going to happen, but none of us know what’s going to happen … I just think your being really short sighted in saying ‘well if you don’t have your 20 percent partner you can’t do it.’ You’ve allowed two other people to have it this year so in a way you’re being really unfair with what you’re saying. I really think you need to overturn it. You need to change your board policy, you need to change your packet before you choose to say no.”
After some more discussion the matter was brought back to the board for its decision.
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